Six years ago, the state Department of Corrections launched a multimillion-dollar project to revamp its aging computer system so authorities could keep better track of offenders in and out of prison. Despite a two-year delay and expenditures of more than $6 million over the initial budget, the second and crucial phase of the new computer system still isn’t operating, reports the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. “It’s a disaster,” said state Rep. Ross Hunter, D-Medina, a former Microsoft general manager and member of the board that oversees state technology projects.
The department’s failure to adequately supervise parolees in the past has led to several highly publicized cases and expensive verdicts, including $22.5 million awarded to the family of a Tacoma woman who was killed in a car crash in 1997 by a felon who had repeatedly violated parole. An independent audit in 1998 found that the department didn’t have easily accessible data to monitor how well corrections officers were supervising parolees, which prompted the push for a more effective computer tracking system. By now, corrections workers should have had access to easy-to-use software to improve the way they monitor the state’s 17,000 prisoners and 32,000 parolees. But the deadline for the second phase of the project passed last month, and the system isn’t online.